Tracking down English football's first ever Brazilian

Ever since I started writing for FourFourTwo back in 2003, I'd always been keen to track down and report on the whereabouts of Mirandinha, the first Brazilian ever to play in England; the forefather of Juninho, Silvinho, Anderson, Robinho et all.

I was a 10 year-old football connoisseur when little Mira left Palmeiras for Newcastle in 1987. And I remember reading all the stories about his Tyneside tales in the Brazilian press, who were all over the national star plying his trade overseas. Articles emerged about exchanging shinpads with Gary Lineker. "It was a great deal! My pair was old and rubbish, and his was shiny, brand new", he said back then. Good times. But Mirandinha then fell out with the coach and returned to Palmeiras, where the greedy striker was never to be the same again.

Bamboozling Chelsea in '87

He went back and forth, playing for Corinthians, Fortaleza, Japan, everywhere and anywhere -  all unimpressive stints. And after retirement the wannabe coach completely disappeared off the radar.

So I started chasing him, but he was hard to catch, slippery in fact.

With my first attempt, I discovered that he was in Egypt, but reaching his club, Al Ahly, was proving as difficult as making him pass the ball. So I gave up. A couple of years later, I decided to give it another shot, and had the brilliant idea of calling up his first club here in São Paulo state, Palmeiras of São João da Boa Vista.

It's a small team from a small town; surely people would know what the town’s old hero would be up to?

But, surprise surprise, the guy I spoke to explained that Mirandinha was black-listed in the province. "You can't even say his name here!"

I found out that Mirandinha had escaped to North Brazil with another lady, leaving his wife - who was a cherished native of São João da Boa Vista - completely unassisted.  (I learned later that his new fling was a young model who had just won a beauty pageant contest in the Amazonas State... Atta boy!) So I headed north, where an obscure newspaper reported that he was working as a coach at a small club in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas, right in the jungle.  I called the club and, in a flash, they slipped me Mirandinha's home telephone number.  So I phoned him, filled with excitement. And old lady answered. It was Mirandinha's new mother-in-law. A very kind woman, who said the ace was not home. I asked when he would be back. "Not soon, son. He left yesterday... to Malaysia.” She told me to call back in a few days – so she would give me the number as soon as he and her daughter had established themselves there. I duly obliged, and when I got it, discovered it was a giant, 25-digit number. I called over and over, and no one ever answered it. Once again, I gave up. There was a third and a fourth time, and again no luck.

In coaching mode for Fortaleza

So it was a fitting coincidence that when FourFourTwo decided to run a South America special issue, and that Mirandinha was within reach again – working as an assistant coach at Fortaleza, a big team from North-east Brazil, who had been relegated to the second division a couple of seasons ago. Chatting with Mirandinha was a blast. We spent around four hours talking on the phone over two calls. After all, there was two decades of catching up to do.

He’s a very articulated and intelligent guy, extremely well informed about English football – where he hopes to work again someday.  You can read all about Mira’s adventures in current issue of FourFourTwo, including his theory about NOT being a greedy player.

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FourFourTwo’s April issue, out now, is a South America special.

It features the 10 best new wonderkids from that continent, including exclusive interviews with Manchester United’s twins Fabio and Rafael da Silva plus Sao Paolo’s £100m-rated “new Kaka” Hernanes.

There are also interviews with Zico and Socrates; a look at the Boca Juniors academy responsible for Tevez, Burdisso, Gago, Banega et al; and the Lord of the Rings star so dedicated to Argentine outfit San Lorenzo that he bunked off a film set to see them play.

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